We don’t believe that Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, appeared to anyone after she had died in the first century. Mary is dead and buried, sleeping the sleep of death in her grave, and awaiting her resurrection to eternal life at the time of Christ’s return. The Bible makes it very clear that all who died in Christ will be resurrected when Christ comes back to this earth–not before then (compare 1 Corinthians 15:22-23, 50-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). As we explain in our free booklet, “Do We Have an Immortal Soul?”, those who die sleep a dreamless sleep of death, without any knowledge, activity, consciousness or thought. For this reason alone, Mary could not have really appeared to anyone after she had died.
Some believe that Mary appeared in a vision. For proof, they point to the occasion of the “transfiguration on the mount” (Matthew 17:1-9), when three of Christ’s disciples, Peter, James and John, saw Jesus Christ in a vision (verse 9) talking to Moses and Elijah, who had died. In that vision, the disciples were given a glimpse of how it would be like in the Kingdom of God, which will be established on this earth after Christ’s return. Jesus had told those disciples that they would not die until they had seen the Kingdom of God having come with power (compare Matthew 16:28; Mark 9:1). They did see it–in a vision (For more information on this vision, please read our free booklet, “The Gospel of the Kingdom of God.”).
We must note, however, that that vision was quite different from visions children and others might have experienced, claiming that they saw the “Virgin Mary” appearing to them with a message from God, pertaining to future events. While the disciples experienced a vision pertaining to a time when Jesus, Moses and Elijah would in fact be powerful spirit beings in the Kingdom of God, the visions of Mary deal mainly with the time prior to Christ’s return–prior to Mary’s resurrection from the dead.
In any event, we are told in Scripture to test the spirits whether they are from God (1 John 4:1). It may not be all that clear to many from the outset whether a particular vision or message is from God or from another source. The Bible warns us that, especially in these end times, many will listen to and be deceived by “lying spirits.” The fact that a message might even accurately foretell certain events is not proof, all by itself, that that message was given by God.
Some point to the episode of King Saul’s encounter with the witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28:3-25), when allegedly, Samuel, who had died, appeared to Saul. They state that if dead Samuel could appear to Saul, why could not dead Mary appear to children?
We read that the prophet Samuel had died, but subsequently King Saul, who had been forsaken by God, went to a witch to find out his future. In the séance, the witch “saw” someone who claimed to be the prophet Samuel. Of course, it was not the real Samuel, as he had died and was in his grave, and as God had clearly stated that he would no longer speak to King Saul through His prophets (verses 6, 15). The figure which only the witch “saw”–Saul did not see anything–was a demon impersonating Samuel. Nevertheless, we find that the demon accurately foretold the future–that Saul and his sons would die in battle the following day (verse 19) (For more information on this séance with Saul and the witch of Endor, please read our free booklet, “Do We Have an Immortal Soul?“).
The fact that the demon accurately foretold the future does not negate the fact that he was a deceiving spirit. We read in Deuteronomy 13:1-4: “If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’–which you have not known–‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.”
Notice! Even though the sign or the wonder came to pass, this was no proof that the prophet was God’s messenger. That is why we are told, as mentioned, to test the spirits–whether they preach the Word of God and obedience to His commandments, or whether they teach a different gospel (Galatians 1:6-9) or a different Jesus (2 Corinthians 11:4).
We also find that apparently, King Saul “prophesied” under the influence of a demonic spirit, after the Spirit of God had left him. We read, in 1 Samuel 18:10, that a distressing spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied inside the house. This distressing spirit was a demon motivating Saul to try to kill David (vs. 11-12). God had allowed this demon to plague Saul, who was unwilling to obey Him, and Saul was even prophesying under demonic influence. The Bible does not tell us, exactly, what Saul prophesied, but he might very well have foretold accurately some future events. Further references to that distressing spirit or demon can be found in 1 Samuel 16:14-23. For more information on the powerful and deceptive role of demons and their activities, please read our free booklet, “Angels, Demons and the Spirit World.”
Many today are unwilling to obey God and keep His commandments. And so, God allows deception to come upon mankind, including signs and wonders which might appear to be very real, and which might even accurately foretell certain future events. But we are told that these are “lying wonders,” and that they are inspired by Satan, not by God–even though God allows these things to happen. We read in 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12 about the appearance of a powerful religious personage, called the “lawless one” or the “false prophet.” He will manifest himself just prior to the return of Christ:
“The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs,and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
This powerful personage is also described in Revelation 13:13-14: “He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do…”
Christ warned that this false prophet or “lawless one” will be accompanied by many other false preachers, priests, ministers and prophets who will deceive most people. We read in Matthew 24:5, 23-24: “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am Christ,’ and will deceive many… Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.”
When we are faced with apparitions of “the Virgin Mary” and other dead “saints,” we must consider the biblical testimony and compare it with the kind of message and teaching conveyed in those alleged apparitions. If they don’t match, then we know that those apparitions are not from God, because God is a God of truth, who cannot lie or deceive (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18), and we know that “no lie is of the truth” (1 John 2:21).
Lead Writer: Norbert Link